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Looking out my Backdoor: Water! We've got lots and lots of water!

All things being relative, we have water. The drought is not over. I’ve forgotten what a cloud looks like. However, the valve directing water to the ranch property has been fixed, replaced, repaired, and, just like that, we have more than a daily dribble.

I still judiciously use water. Mop water, dish water, still get dumped on potted plants, whichever ones look most thirsty at the moment. I still have brown grass and dusty patches and will have until the rains come. If they come. The invitation to the Great Rain has been extended. “Come soon, please,” it reads. Rain has not replied. See above regarding clouds.

As John said the other day, “Who in town has lush, green lawns? Nobody. Only in Gringolandia do we waste water on grass.”

I have not adequate words to describe how delighted I felt when I turned on the faucet to the hose to fill my trash can so I could haul water into the house for dishes, mopping, and flushing when the hose nearly jumped out of my hands, gushing water. I had become used to the bare trickle and glad enough to see that much most days.

Woo-hoody-doody! I could dispense with the extra buckets and pans. I could shower at night. I could shower morning, noon and night, should the urge seize me. Woo-hoody-doody!

I’m no stranger to running water. Running fresh water into the house in buckets. Running waste water out to the gully in buckets. But that was 60 years ago when I lived in a shack with no facilities. My feelings were mightily damaged back then when a woman I had thought to be a close friend said to another friend, “How can she stand to live like that?”

Years later I was able to heal the scab from her comment when I realized her words said more about her than about me.

Let’s talk about the word “delight.” What it means to me, today, is turn-the-tap water.

I was prepared to haul water however many more days, weeks, months it might take. One adjusts to one’s circumstances.

I often thought back to those early days in Dodson, a five-gallon bucket of water in each hand, clomping through the snow drifts, the ice pack of winter. I was young and strong and full of delight with each day.

These days, I hauled one three-gallon bucket, not full to the brim, filling containers each morning, enough to get me through the triple-digit heat of the afternoon, grateful for the little water I had. Most grateful, but … not filled with delight.

When I got cranky, I made myself stand again at the end of the long hallway at the hospital in India, up on the fourth floor, looking out over the empty lots across the way where workers were constructing a high-rise building, all with manual labor.

Many of the workers and their families lived in knocked together shelters of boards, rags and sheets of plastic on the empty section of the lot, among piles of sand and gravel.

One water pipe jutted out of the ground. Every morning the young women lined up at the water pipe, toddlers hanging onto the hems of the mothers’ saris, to fill their containers for cooking, washing, laundry. Every afternoon, it being monsoon season, the little families huddled in the shelters as best they could as the sky opened up and dumped the daily flood in sheets.

Puts things into perspective, doesn’t it? I didn’t have it so bad. I had water and I knew how to make the most with it.

So forgive me if I find sheer delight in my life of ease, water at the turn of the tap. This is today. Tomorrow is unknown. We still hit the triple digits on the thermometer every afternoon. The sky is smoky, tinged brown.

Today we have water. Maybe it doesn’t exactly gush from the faucet, but, all things being relative, it is adequate.


Sondra Ashton grew up in Harlem but spent most of her adult life out of state. She returned to see the Hi-Line with a perspective of delight. After several years back in Harlem, Ashton is seeking new experiences in Etzatlan, Mexico. Once a Montanan, always. Read Ashton’s essays and other work at Email [email protected].


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